Researching Online Reptile Sellers
The best and only fool-proof way to avoid being scammed is to buy from those with known reputation.
This is especially true if you are new to the hobby because you are the most easily deceived.
When buying from unknown individuals or businesses, you may encounter a range of problems from bad service to inaccurate mislabeled product. But the worst possible scenario is a miscreant who lures you into sending money for an animal that does not even exist.
Of course, most less known breeders are honest people, but you are taking some risk.
Should you choose to venture beyond the walls of known reputation, here are some tips to consider to avoid the outright scam. There is no single rule and these factors should be considered all together.
- How long ago did they join MorphMarket according to their Store Page? They could be new to our site, but that means there has been less time for others to report suspicious activity.
- Do they have a history in our Ratings and Feedback system? Visit the store's page on our site and follow the link to see their ratings.
- How many positive versus negative experiences have been recorded?
- How do they score in the detailed ratings categories?
- What kind of feedback have buyers left?
- Is their store page linked to a website? Social media pages? How developed are these sites and how many followers do they have? Do they have marketing materials like a logo? Pictures of their facility is another bonus.
- What do you find people saying when you search for them on forums and social media? Does the web even validate their existence as a breeder? Some good places to check:
- Conduct a general Google Search with the breeder individual or company name.
- Visit their Facebook page if they have one and check reviews there.
- Visit FBI - Feedback and Inquiries for Reptiles forum on Facebook. Use the "Search this group" function.
- Search Fauna Board of Inquiry, a site dedicated to investigating disputes between buyers and sellers. You can use Google spearch specific sites like "site:www.faunaclassifieds.com".
- How do their store description and policies read? How do they handle Dead On Arrival and other situations?
- Can they give you references to customers or other breeders you know? Who will vouch for them?
- Is the price too good to be true? A reasonable price doesn't mean it's legitimate, but an unreasonably good price should raise suspicion.
- Can they provide additional photos of the animal in a different situation than the ad photo? Make sure it's the exact same animal by looking for specific patterns. Request a picture of the reptile from the same angle, sitting on top of their business card or a piece of paper with your name on it. This should be the very last step before you pay money though, because sellers don't have time to take extra pictures for tire-kickers.
- While this technique is very effective, it may be unnecessary and some legitimate sellers may not accommodate you. At that point it's up to you in whether the other evidence of their reputation is strong enough to cover your concerns.
- Look at their other ads too. Is there anything that doesn't make sense? Scammers often don't know the hobby very well and may make mistakes that are obvious to enthusiasts.
- How do they expect payment?
- When using PayPal, is their account Verified? Do they request PayPal "Friends and Family"? Know that this will void your Buyer Protection. If necessary it's worth you paying the extra 3% if necessary to send money via "Goods and Services".
- Only accepting money order could be a red flag because it provides you no protection.
- Have a phone conversation with them. Ask them a couple of questions about Ball Pythons to test their knowledge.
- Are they creating pressure or urgency to buy? Trying to make you act quickly? Trying to make you feel guilty for asking questions? These are signs to walk away.
Full on scammers are rare and we are likely to catch and remove them quickly on MorphMarket. However we do not want to see anyone get ripped off. We have no ability to get your money back and the authorities will have nothing to go on so you are on your own.
Sellers can save time by having most of these listed on MorphMarket or their website or social media pages.
Bottom line is use your common sense and never send money to anyone you don't know -- unless you've researched it and are very comfortable in doing so.